Joe Biden has immersed himself in the re-election campaign. He is knee-deep into it with the launch of a new TikTok account for his campaign. They used the Super Bowl LVIII to launch a new TikTok account in an attempt to woo younger voters ahead of the presidential election in November 2024. While this might be a noteworthy move, it has also received flak since the app is banned on most US government devices over security concerns.

Hey by the way, we just joined TikTok,” the Biden-Harris HQ page announced on X. They also shared a link to the new account under the username “@bidenhq” urging netizens to go follow them on the Chinese streaming app. In a launch video captioned as “lol hey guys“, Joe Biden offered his opinions on various Super Bowl-related queries. As of Tuesday morning, the @bidenhq account had more than 681,300 likes and nearly 82,000 followers.

Owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance, TikTok is being investigated in the United States. Several US senators have urged for the app to be outlawed because they are worried that the Chinese government may access user data or manipulate what users view on the app.

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Double Standards, Much?

Many were taken aback by Biden’s campaign move, considering that the ex-President signed legislation in 2022 blocking most federal government devices from using TikTok. Earlier, the Biden re-election campaign had downplayed a report that Biden’s team was planning to use TikTok. In fact, the Biden administration warned TikTok that if its parent firm, ByteDance, didn’t sell its share in the US version of the app, it may be banned in the country.

Yet, the site remains popular amongst the younger generation in the US, a demographic that the White House is keen to energise for this November’s election. Joe Biden’s TikTok account will not be run by the president himself, but by his campaign team, aides told US media.

The Debut TikTok Video

In the launch video, Joe Biden was asked if he was rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers, and Mr Biden chose the Philadelphia Eagles, because otherwise “I’d be sleeping alone” as “my wife’s a Philly girl”. He was then asked about a Taylor Swift Super Bowl conspiracy theory.

Some claim the singer’s relationship with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce was part of a plot to rig the NFL’s championship game which could also help get Biden re-elected this November. “I’d get in trouble if I told you” about the conspiracy, Mr Biden joked. And the video ended with a reference to the quirky meme of a laser-eyed Biden alter-ego.

Targeting The Younger Gen

Michael Starr Hopkins, a Democratic strategist who worked on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, said that many Democrats have been hesitant to use TikTok to connect with voters given the data security concerns. But he added that candidates have to face the fact that it is a platform where they can reach people of all demographics.

You’ve got to meet voters where they are. If they’re using it, they’re using it, and we can’t afford to be at a disadvantage if Republicans are utilising it,” he said. Mr Biden’s 2024 campaign is hoping to rekindle the record-high turnout from young people that helped lift him to victory in the last election.

According to Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, around 50% of that bloc voted in 2020. And some 65% of voters between the ages of 18 to 24 cast ballots for the Democratic president.

Joe Biden presidential re-election campaign TikTok young generation voters Super Bowl

Kyle Tharp, author of the political newsletter FWIW – which tracks digital trends, spending and strategy in US elections – said the Biden campaign has leveraged celebrities, influencers and big internet names to get their political messaging out to younger demographics. While young voters tend to vote for Democrats, their support “will make or break this election this time around“, he added.

Connecting with that demographic is key for Joe Biden. The 81-year-old president’s age has also been a major concern for voters of all ages. In fact, opinion polls suggest up to 75% of those expected to cast their ballots in November believe he is too old for the job.

The Biden Campaign’s Official Response

When the Biden team pledged to “continue meeting voters where they are,” they were referring to other social media platforms such as Truth Social, a platform launched by former president Donald Trump, and Meta‘s Instagram. According to the Biden campaign, the campaign is implementing “advanced safety precautions” for its devices, and their appearance on TikTok has no connection with the app’s ongoing security review.

US Officials React

After the Biden campaign joined TikTok, Democratic Senator Mark Warner on Monday raised concerns about the national security implications. “I think that we still need to find a way to follow India, which has prohibited TikTok,” Warner said. “I’m a little worried about a mixed message.

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson John Kirby asserted no changes have been made regarding the “national security concerns … about the use of TikTok on government devices. That policy is still in place.” Several GOP lawmakers have also denounced the campaign’s decision to join TikTok.

Heritage Foundation Vice President Victoria Coates wrote on X, “Great so your message can be managed by the CCP.” “Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Xi’s gonna love it,” Journalist Chuck Ross tweeted. American Foreign Policy Council senior fellow Michael Sobolik also lambasted the decision, stating that it’s a “dangerous message Biden is sending to China”.

Biden’s own administration has removed TikTok from government devices for security reasons. His own agency heads have called the app a national security threat. When he campaigned for president in 2020, Biden called TikTok a ‘matter of genuine concern.’ Now, suddenly, it isn’t anymore. Why? Because Biden needs it for his reelection campaign,” he wrote.

Of course it’s putting political ambition ahead of national security. That’s bad enough. But it also confirms the CCP’s critique of democracy: it’s fundamentally corrupt,” Sobolik continued. “That’s the dangerous message Biden is sending to China. No one should let him off for this. A failure of leadership.”

The Internet seems divided on this one. While the younger generation might find it amusing, the US officials do not feel too comfortable about Joe Biden and his campaign’s decision. What do you feel? Let us know in the comments!